MANKATO, Minn. — George Gwozdecky even admitted it: Minnesota State outplayed his top-ranked Denver Pioneers Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Center. But in the end, Denver beat MSU on special teams, scoring two power-play goals en route to a 3-1 WCHA win.
The thing that continues to amaze or surprise me is that the Mavericks havent had more success this year, Gwozdecky said. They create offense, theyre fast and they had good goaltending.
In fact, they outplayed us a lot of the time.
Also important, the Pioneers killed off all four of the penalties they committed on four MSU power-play shots.
We played a good hockey game with the exception of special teams, said MSU coach Troy Jutting. We created opportunities but again, we couldnt finish.
Despite a first period controlled mostly by MSU, the Pioneers got on the board midway through the period on lucky bounce.
At 10:11, Tyler Ruegseggers centering attempt deflected off MSU defenseman Channing Boes skate and over goalie Mavericks goaltender Phil Cooks left shoulder 13 seconds after Eriah Hayes went to the box for boarding.
The Mavericks held a 10-6 advantage in shots after one period but couldnt get on the board until 11:19 of the second period, right after Cook made an outstanding toe save to keep the Mavericks deficit at one goal.
Mike Louwerse started the breakout off the ensuing faceoff and passed it along to Rylan Galiardi who brought the puck into the Denver zone. Galiardi set Zach Harrison up for a one-timer from the top of the left circle. Harrisons shot went to the far post over Cheveries shoulder to knot the score at one.
The goal gave MSU plenty of momentum as the Mavericks continued to get quality scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, no one was ever there to tap in the loose puck in the crease or receive the perfect pass in the slot.
Its something where we just have to bear down and put the puck back in the net, Harrison said. We have to get a little more patient with the puck and put it home.
That and Marc Cheverie — one of the nations best goalies — had another strong game in goal for the Pioneers, stopping 28 shots.
(Cheverie) is the best goalie in the country, Jutting said.
Cook made 17 saves for MSU.
Denver took the lead for good when Joe Colborne redirected a shot from the point by William Wrenn to give the Pioneers the lead at 6:51 of the third period, a few moments after Boe was called for a delayed penalty.
The Pioneers sealed the victory four minutes later on another power play goal.
Denvers Rhett Rahkshani passed the puck to Ruegegger in the left corner who centered to a streaking Matt Donovan on the back door who snapped a shot past Cook at 10:34 of the third.
The third goal; we cant allow that to happen, Jutting said. We were just standing there and we just let the puck go right through us.
The win keeps second-place Wisconsin and St. Cloud State at arms length. The Pioneers have 38 points, the Badgers and Huskies are in second with 33.
The margin of error in this league is so thin, Gwozdecky said. The postseason is going to a challenge for every team in the league.
Denver can clinch the MacNaughton Cup — the WCHA regular season trophy — with another win against MSU at 7:07 p.m., Saturday in Mankato.